So, you’d like to meet someone and have decided to go online. That’s a good move — proactive and forward-thinking.
But be careful not to be lulled into habits that will undermine your online dating experience. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you peruse the seemingly endless stream of profiles from prospective partners.
1. Don’t go crazy over the pictures.
On the Internet, it's easy to feel nitpicky and maintain high expectations. With apps like Tinder, you snap-judge users as if you were scrolling Amazon for the best pair of speakers. This sense of being in the driver’s seat, of choosing, can be appealing. It makes you feel powerful. Fight it. If what you want is a real connection — a relationship with a person you hope to love and who will love you — you will have to bring your most mature and empathetic self to the project. That means not saying, “Eh, she’s cute — but I prefer brunettes to blondes. Next!” You’d never behave this way in person, so don’t do it online.
2. Don't obsess about the details.
Don’t worry too much about the particulars: which restaurants, bars, movies or books a potential date likes. ("Oh, he lives in Queens" or "She prefers Six Feet Under to The Sopranos.") Instead, take in the broad strokes — does he live in the same city? Is she a reader? Does he seem intelligent? Don’t become consumed with the idea that someone out there corresponds exactly to all your tastes and preferences. After all, chances are many of your exes didn’t share your exact tastes, and nine times out of 10, it isn’t why you two broke up. If you obsess about the little things (this guy shares my passion for both dim sum and Noah Baumbach flicks!) you are likely to pass over the profiles of people
who might actually make you happy.
3. Evaluate the tone of the profile.
What’s actually important in evaluating a profile is its tone. You want to try and get a sense of what the person is like, which can be truly difficult.
It’s a challenge as a novelist to convey characters in meaningful ways — it’s no less demanding for a person writing, or reading, dating profiles. It’s key to read between the lines to get a sense of whether the person seems well-adjusted — pleasant, friendly and reasonable, someone you would be drawn to if you met him or her in person, even if you didn’t know her top five favorite movies.
Look closely for signs of boastfulness, snideness or bitterness. Also, insincerity: the person who claims over and over again to “absolutely love” his or her life just the way it is, to be “completely and totally” satisfied with everything in it. These people claim to have joined said dating site on a lark (“my friend suggested it and I figured why not?”). These behaviors suggest this person might have trouble being honest about his or her vulnerability or true motives.
Attention to tone when you read profiles will help you to ferret some of those qualities no one admits to (we often don’t even know we have them, sadly).